Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who was the vice presidential candidate with Sen. John McCain in 2008, will reportedly subpoena 23 New York Times staffers in her defamation lawsuit against the newspaper over an editorial that she alleges tried to link her rhetoric to the 2011 attempted murder of then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, according to Fox News.
Although the newspaper posted a correction one day later that acknowledged “no such link was established,” the fiery former governor is evidently not in a forgiving mood.
The case is almost certain to provide a new test of the limits of fair comment under the First Amendment. The newspaper was at the center of a landmark 1964 First Amendment ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of New York Times v. Sullivan. That was the case that established the need for public figures to show “actual malice” by newspapers in order to sue for libel and defamation. The case has been discussed at length in communications law courses for more than 50 years. The high court ruled 9-0 in favor of the newspaper.
According to Fox News, “The editorial also claimed, incorrectly, that a now-infamous ad from Palin’s political action committee put ‘Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized crosshairs.’ The Times also corrected that statement, admitting that the crosshairs on the map targeted ‘electoral districts, not individual Democratic lawmakers.’”
Her plan to subpoena so many Times staffers was included in court papers filed in federal district court in Manhattan on Wednesday, according to The Hill. The initial lawsuit was filed in June.
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While the lawsuit concentrates on the alleged defamation, the issue of media bias could play into the case as it moves forward. The Times has been accused of left-leaning editorial bias, not just against the 53-year-old Palin, but other conservative people and issues.
As noted by The Hill, the opinion piece in question stated, “In 2011, Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Rep. Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl. At the time, we and others were sharply critical of the heated political rhetoric on the right.”
Palin, in court papers, alleges that the newspaper intentionally published information it “knew to be false,” The Hill explained.
According to the Washington Examiner, Palin’s legal team is also seeking “every internal communication (the newspaper) has had about her since 2011.” That could include a lot of documents, because by that time, Palin had become both an icon for conservatives and something of a piñata for liberals.
Fox News quoted an unidentified Times spokesperson who stated, “It is agonizing to get something wrong, but as soon as our editors become aware of the error, they corrected it. We are confident that the First Amendment protects publishers in these circumstances, and we intend to defend the action vigorously.”